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Journal Article


Ide S. Nature 2019; 573(7772): 112-116.


Department of Earth and Planetary Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


(Copyright © 2019, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






Every gigantic earthquake begins as a tiny rock failure at almost a point, followed by successive slip of the complex fault system, before radiating strong shaking from a vast rupture area extending over hundreds of kilometres. Whether the growth process of the rupture of a large earthquake is predictable and whether it produces observable signatures different from that of smaller events1-5 are fundamental questions related to the potential for earthquake early warning and probabilistic forecasting. Inspired by a recent discovery that large earthquakes might have seismic waves, and probably rupture processes, that are almost identical to those of smaller events6-8, we show that such similarity characterized by large cross-correlation is a common feature of earthquakes in the Tohoku-Hokkaido subduction zone, Japan. A systematic comparison of 15 years of high-sensitivity seismograph records for approximately 100,000 events reveals 80 extremely similar and 390 very similar pairs of large (moment magnitude M > 4.5) and small (M < 4.0) earthquakes, co-located within about 100 metres. An extremely high similarity is observed for pairs of subduction-type earthquakes (170 of 899 large events) separated by a long period of up to 15 years, whereas for pairs of other types of large earthquakes only the foreshocks and aftershocks are similar. This frequently occurring similarity between different-sized subduction-type earthquakes suggests repeated cascading rupture processes in a widespread hierarchical structure9-12 along the plate interface and indicates a specific but probabilistically limited predictability of the final size of the earthquake (that is, the location and a set of possible sizes of an earthquake are well predicted, but its final size is not at all well constrained).

Language: en


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